BY ALYSSON AREDAS
Five days a week, a small fleet of the United Samaritans Foundation’s Daily Bread Mobile Lunch Program food trucks make their way across Stanislaus County to distribute food to people in need – an endeavor the nonprofit has selflessly carried out for over two decades.
“There are people out there in need and the need may go up and down, but it never stops,” said executive director Beverly Hatcher.
The Foundation has four mobile food trucks that stop at 46 sites throughout nine communities in Stanislaus County Monday through Friday. Three days a week United Samaritans serves hot meals, twice a week they serve sandwiches. Hatcher said that the Foundation gathers up any extra food they have left over from the week on Friday so people have food over the weekend, and at the end of each month they distribute emergency food boxes at their Turlock and Hughson sites with enough supplies to feed a family for at least three days.
“The emergency food boxes are for people who for whatever reason run out of money for food at the end of the month,” said Hatcher.
Established as a nonprofit with a Board of Directors in 1994, the food truck portion of the Foundation was inspired by a Daily Bread Ministry program that the Sacred Heart Catholic Church had been operating for three years prior. As the nonprofit acquired larger facilities and began to serve a larger population in need, all hands were on deck to ensure that no one in the community went without.
Now over 20 years later, United Samaritans serves a little more than 400,000 meals a year, which roughly equates to 1,500 to 1,800 meals a day.
When it comes to obtaining food to distribute to clients, Hatcher said the Foundation purchases food through Second Harvest Food Bank. The rest of their inventory is primarily donation-based.
“One of our biggest donations comes from the Gemperle family, who donate 450 dozen eggs a week,” said Hatcher. “So on Tuesdays, we have egg salad sandwiches.”
Hatcher said a number of farmers throughout the community are frequent donors to the Foundation, as well as a myriad of local business, including Costco, Olive Garden, Safeway, Save Mart, and WinCo. United Samaritans also receives a $30,000 grant from Kaiser Permanente to buy fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the year and Hatcher recently was gifted a $5,000 check from Save Mart CARES to go towards providing meals.
Hatcher said that contrary to common misperception, the Foundation does not solely serve the homeless as 80 percent of United Samaritans’ clients are housed but face financial struggles. Of the clients served by the Foundation, over 30 percent report that the meal they receive from United Samaritans is the only meal they will get that day.
Hatcher said a majority of the neighborhoods the Foundation frequents are considered “food deserts,” which is a term used to describe areas that are more than a mile from a full service grocery store.
“These are people who don’t have transportation, the elderly, moms with toddlers – those who can’t go to stationary sites where we serve food. Additionally, many of our people are the working poor. They have jobs, but it’s just tough out there,” said Hatcher. “We go into neighborhoods that need it.”
The United Samaritans Foundation is located at 220 S. Broadway Street in Turlock and 2413 Third Street in Hughson. For more information on the United Samaritans Foundation, visit unitedsamaritans.org or call 668-4853.